Puerto Rico Is in Crisis. Tech Companies Are Responding With Money and Repair Teams
More than a week after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico with Category 4-strength winds, many of the island’s 3.4 million residents remain without water or electricity, while gas and cash are in short supply as well. At least 16 people were killed by the hurricane, but the number is likely to rise.
The military, various federal agencies, and disaster relief organizations are working to evacuate residents, distribute aid and repair damaged power grids in Puerto Rico. But private U.S. companies, including Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley powerhouses, are also stepping up to offer support and crucial services.
Here’s how some of the tech industry’s biggest players are responding to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria:
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this week that Facebook is donating $1.5 million to recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, with the money to be split between the World Food Program and Net Hope, a consortium representing dozens of nonprofits and tech companies.
Facebook also sent a “connectivity team” to Puerto Rico with emergency telecommunications support after the hurricane knocked out most of the island’s communications. The majority of the island’s cell towers remain out of service. (Several big telecom companies, including AT&T, are also pitching in by sending equipment and engineers to help reestablish Puerto Rico’s communications network.)
Tesla CEO Elon Musk personally donated $250,000 to relief efforts in Puerto Rico, but his company also started sending hundreds of Tesla’s Powerwall battery systems after Hurricane Maria passed. Tesla also sent employees to assist in installing the battery systems, which store solar energy and can be paired with solar panels.
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Microsoft said this week that the company is donating more than $1 million to Puerto Rico relief efforts through Microsoft Philanthropies, including cash grants and employee matching funds, while also offering technology and services to support relief workers. The company is also providing free Skype calls into Puerto Rico.
On Thursday, Apple announced that the tech giant’s “community” (which includes the company’s employees as well as customers who donate directly through the Apple App Store and iTunes) has provided more than $13 million to hurricane relief efforts in the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean, including over $1 million for Puerto Rico.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said this week that the company and its employees are offering $1 million in donations to relief organizations, including the Red Cross and UNICEF, to aid recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
The room-sharing startup has been working to provide housing for thousands of people who have been displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and now Maria over the past month. Airbnb’s website offers options for users in need of shelter in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, while also providing ways for people with available housing to offer space to those who have been displaced.